COVID-19 in B.C.: Farm outbreak at four sites, Big White outbreak expands to 96 cases, and more

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      Over recent days, new case counts have been below 700 cases—and that continues with today’s numbers. However, other case categories revealed mixed results.

      After B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix mentioned at yesterday’s briefing that the nine deaths in Interior Health over the weekend were more than the region had over the course of the pandemic, something to note is that today’s case counts for Interior Health is on par with Vancouver Coastal Health.

      Meanwhile, incidents of public health defiance continue to arise. Nanaimo RCMP announced today that 11 youths were fined for gathering in a parking lot in Nanaimo on the weekend without practising any health measures and after not following an officer’s direction to disperse.

      In other news, B.C. Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced today that to protect food and beverage establishments during the pandemic, he has capped fees charged by delivery companies to restaurants during the pandemic at 15 percent, with an additional cap of five percent for any other fees.

      The B.C. government announced today it has once again extended the provincial state of emergency, this time until January 5.

      B.C. update: December 22

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dix announced in a joint statement that there are 444 new cases (including five epi-linked cases) in B.C. today.

      By health region, that includes:

      • 256 new cases in Fraser Health;
      • 79 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 78 in Interior Health;
      • 22 in Northern Health;
      • nine in Island Health;
      • no one from outside Canada.

      Currently, there are 9,481 active cases, which is 237 less than yesterday.

      Unfortunately, hospitalizations have gone up. At the moment, 357 individuals are in hospital (16 more than yesterday), and 84 of those patients are receiving intensive care (four more people since yesterday).

      The number of people being monitored by public health was not provided today.

      Sadly, there are 12 new COVID-19-related deaths, which brings the total fatalities during the pandemic to 777 people who have died.

      A cumulative total of 36,094 people (76 percent) have now recovered.

      During the pandemic, B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 47,510 cases, which includes (by region):

      • 30,227 cases in Fraser Health;
      • 11,331 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
      • 3,391 in Interior Health;
      • 1,620 in Northern Health;
      • 838 in Island Health;
      • 103 people from outside Canada.
      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, with Dr. Bonnie Henry
      Province of British Columbia


      A cumulative total of 4,108 people have now received the COVID-19 vaccine in B.C. since vaccinations began on December 15.

      In addition, vaccine clinics launched today in Island Health, Interior Health, and Northern Health regions (Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal were the first to have vaccination clinic operational).

      Interior Health announced that the first vaccinations were given today in Kelowna and Kamloops.

      Island Health announced that it received 1,950 doses in its initial shipment of the vaccine and that the first vaccinations were given to healthcare workers in the Greater Victoria area today.

      Among those receiving their vaccinations in this health region was Henry. Dix stated on social media that she received her vaccine to in support of healthcare workers and to show her confidence in the safety of the vaccine.

      Northern Health stated that it received the first shipment of vaccines yesterday and began vaccinations for high-risk healthcare workers today in Prince George. Northern Health also stated that it expects to be able to immunize all residents of the health region by the end of 2021.

      Henry and Dix stated in their release that as vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna have provided guidance on how to safely transport the vaccines, deliveries will increase and become available in more locations in the coming weeks.

      Surrey Memorial Hospital

      Outbreak and exposures

      There are two new healthcare outbreaks:

      • one is at the high-intensity rehabilitation unit at Laurel Place (9688 137A Street), located across the street from Surrey Memorial Hospital, and Fraser Health stated that four patients and two staff have tested positive;
      • the other is at an acute-care unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital (13750 96th Avenue), which Fraser Health has not yet issued further details about;

      Fraser Health also announced today that the outbreak at Fellburn Care Centre in Burnaby is now over.

      Interior Health issued a news release today about the outbreak at Heritage Retirement Residence in West Kelowna that Henry mentioned at yesterday’s briefing. Interior Health stated that four staff members and six residents have tested positive in this outbreak.

      Northern Health provided an update today on the outbreak at Jubilee Lodge in Prince George, where 38 residents and seven staff have tested positive, and four residents have died.

      A new community outbreak has been declared at four Highline Farms worksites and Fraser Health has ordered all four locations to close:

      • Abby Farm (38050 Atkinson Road) in Abbotsford;
      • Infinity (28424 Townshipline Road) in Abbotsford;
      • Trademark (28243 Townshipline Road) in Abbotsford;
      • 3392 224th Street in Langley.

      Fraser Health stated that evidence of transmission among staff at these sites was found and that 59 employees have tested positive so far.

      Interior Health provided an update today on the community cluster at Big White Mountain near Kelowna. With an additional 20 cases confirmed, a total of 96 cases are now linked to the cluster. Of the total cases, 69 individuals live on Big White Mountain, 64 people have recovered, and there haven’t been any hospitalization required for any of the cases yet. 

      Interior Health stated that these new cases are connected to transmission that occurred within group housing, social events, and gatherings.

      “These new cases were expected,” Interior Health medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema stated in a news release. “Many of these new cases were on isolation already as they had shared their household with confirmed cases.”

      Northern Health provided an update about the outbreak at the LNG Canada project site in Kitimat, stating that there are now 16 employees who have tested positive, and nne of the cases are considered active.

      As has been the case for some time now, a good sign once again is that none of the five regional health authorities added any new public exposure events to their lists.

      Flights and stores

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added the following 13 domestic and international flights to its lists of flights confirmed with COVID-19:

      • December 9: KLM 681, Amsterdam to Vancouver;
      • December 9: WestJet 3320, Vancouver to Kelowna;
      • December 12: Air Canada 103, Toronto to Vancouver;
      • December 13: Air Canada 123, Toronto to Vancouver;
      • December 14: Air Canada 241, Edmonton to Vancouver;
      • December 14: Air Canada 8414, Vancouver to Kelowna;
      • December 15: WestJet 129, Calgary to Vancouver;
      • December 15: Air Canada 855, London to Vancouver;
      • December 15: Air Canada 8265, Vancouver to Nanaimo;
      • December 16: WestJet 3323, Kelowna to Vancouver;
      • December 16: Air Canada 311, Montreal to Vancouver;
      • December 18: Air Canada 121, Toronto to Vancouver;
      • December 19: WestJet 2153, Puerto Vallarta to Vancouver.

      Affected row information is available at the BCCDC website.

      Loblaw reported it had staff members who tested positive at three Real Canadian Superstores:

      • two employees last worked on on December 10 and December 15 at 2280 Baron Road in Kelowna;
      • two employees on December 12 and December 18 at 3000 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam;
      • three employees on December 12, December 13, and December 15 at 2855 Gladwin Road in Abbotsford.

      All five regional health authorities added schools with new exposure dates for a total of 31 schools plus one school bus route. For full details, see this article

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.